Superintendent: Milford reading skills falter

MILFORD – Test data on Milford student achievement conflicts in several areas with results of a recent community survey, especially as they relate to math and English proficiency, Superintendent Jessica Huzienga told the school board recently.

During a slide presentation at the board’s Nov. 5 meeting, Huzienga said 84 percent of survey respondents believe the district is “effective to extremely effective” in English language arts.

Yet in reading, she said, Milford is three grade levels below the state average, with grade 8 the only grade to reach 70 percent proficiency and four grades below 60 percent.

Huzienga, who was hired last summer to replace retiring superintendent Robert Marquis, also noted that during the teacher interviews she conducted earlier this school year, the majority were concerned about math, not English, but English is the cause for concern.

“Here is the difference between perception and what the data is actually telling us,” she said, with data showing the opposite of the perception: math scores are better than English scores as they relate to the state average.

Testing knows as DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), she said, show students are leaving kindergarten and grade 1 with 69 percent of them needing intensive intervention.

At the high school, however, the SAT scores exceed the state average and AP scores are “decent,” she said, “so there is something that is happening in the shift” from lower grades to high school.

Science survey responses are “really interesting,” she said, with 77 percent of respondents feel the schools are “effective to extremely effective,” yet at the high school state test results in science are at 43 percent, “which is very low,” she said, “We definitely have work to do.” think a lot has to do with “time on learning.” High class sizes in the elementary and middle school, she said, seem to lead to very low proficiency at the high school.

The survey is part of the district’s strategic planning process now underway, and 259 people responded, or 10 percent of the population, which the superintendent called statistically significant. The majority were parents of current students and the rest included elected officials, business and church leaders and some alumni.

Spanish has the highest enrollment in the foreign languages, with 231 out of the 810 high school students enrolled, and there would be more if scheduling obstacles were removed, she said. The French program is “slowly dying,” Huizenga said, with only 25 enrolled in the high school. Only 36 students are enrolled in Latin, though the survey respondents called the language very important.

“When I was a middle school principal,” she said, “Latin was one of four languages, and Latin students always outperformed on SATs those taking other languages.”

Survey respondants also said they would like more meaningful communication with the district. School board Chairman Ron Carvell said board members need time to absorb the information.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or